The saga of 12 boys and their soccer coach who spent more than two weeks trapped in a cave in northern Thailand reached a positive conclusion on July 10 when rescuers retrieved the last of the group from their subterranean confines.
In the Denver area, the staff of Intermap Technologies was paying close attention to the rescue efforts, in part because they directly assisted them.
The Arapahoe County-based geo-tech firm, which has been in the business of 3D mapping the Earth for three decades, was contacted by rescuers on June 27, three days after the boys and their coach went missing following soccer practice in Thailand's Chiang Rai province, according to an Intermap news release. The company, which has clients all over the world including in Thailand, agreed to help free of charge.
The search team's request: Give us as much elevation, hydrology and other data on the search area as possible. Within three hours, Intermap worked up a data set that mapped the area's elevation to within a meter's accuracy. When it blended its material with data from a local university, the Thai government, multi-sensor satellites and other sources, Intermap was able to produce an interactive, 3D model that included the layout of the cave network where the boys were trapped.
“Our superhero power is our data sets see things that your eyes can't,” Intermap chairman and CEO Patrick Blott said Monday night as rescue efforts were ongoing. “They didn't have data to understand the terrain and they knew we did. That's why they called us.”
“We have AI – artificial intelligence – driven engines. They run super fast. We're dealing with terabytes of data, mashing it together and creating analytics and profiles in a very short amount of time,” Blott added of how quickly his team was able to spring into action.
The data Intermap produced was used to identify potential drilling points when tunnelling was being considered as a rescue option. It also identified drainage pathways for fast-rising monsoon rain waters and alternative ways in and out of the cave network. Ultimately, it helped guide divers swimming through the network to the trapped kids, Blott said.
After locating the boys and their coach 10 days after they went missing, divers were able to extract all 13 of them safely as of Tuesday morning, according to a Facebook post from Thai navy SEALs that headed up the rescue effort with help from volunteers. One person, retired Thai SEAL Saman Gunan, died trying to deliver oxygen to the boys during the rescue effort.
“It starts and ends with the guys on the ground, the SEALs that take that risk,” Blott said. “Our hearts and prayers go out to the families, and particularly to the family of the SEAL who lost his life. But we are very thankful those families have their kids back.” — The Denver Post/Tribune News Service